Monday, April 20, 2009

Rushkoff on Decentralised Money

Over at Reality Sandwich, Douglas Rushkoff has a piece on new/alt money in the networked age. I'm still waiting for that RFC'd, open-source, cypherpunk-fueled cryptocash to come along to make electro-money trustable and usable, but in the meantime it's great to see the idea of alt econony, such as the Southampton Pound idea floating around.

Here's a small selection of quotes from Rushkoff's article that really intrigue me:

...a waning monarchy was looking for ways to preserve its power in the face of a rising merchant class. ...

They began to write laws that favored their chartered companies, such as those preventing inhabitants of colonies from creating any value for themselves; colonists had to ship raw resources back to the mother country, where they were processed into clothes or other finished goods. ...

Local currencies were earned -- not borrowed -- into existence. They reflected the abundance of the season's grain, and did not depend on artificial scarcity for their value.

Two things intrigue me about the future of alt-ec, which I have probably mentioned before:

1. The idea that I can actually remotely hold local currency, i.e. in the same way that people hold baskets of Sterling, Euros, Dollars, etc, could I take payment in Lewes Pounds and then (assuming the LP was de-pegged from the GB pound), convert that into Euros bypassing Sterling, at a later date? Could I be paid in Tesco vouchers? How about completed or semi-completed loyalty cards for coffee shops?

2. The idea of money backed by personal reputation, just as we have buyer and seller ratings and reputations on ebay, et al. Is money worth more if the two parties involved in a transaction trust each other more?

Alas, I'm not sure the social and educational mechanisms are in place for this to happen on a wider scale just yet. My hope is that more networking will lead to a re-skilling of the populace, a re-discovery of local value and hence local economies, and then we might see efforts to combine and amalgamate these micro-economies. But I guess I have every reason to be optimistic about it...

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